A snake, which weaves itself throughout the veins of a family, spews its fatal venom into capillaries and infecting the soul. The poison of betrayal, despair and the disease of the psyches cloud the mind in both Oedipus Rex and Hamlet. In both instances, all characters fall victim to a shattered world, ripped apart by failed expectancies. Prince Hamlet and King Oedipus both watch as their families become dismembered. There was a pattern of ideals that were violated and corrupt, progressing the plays’ actions.
The helping hands which aided the unraveling of their lives were perverted concepts, everyday characteristics needed to lead a sane life. These corrupt philosophies which color the pages of these plays touch on the ideals of cursed love, crumbled loyalty, a broken family and the virtue of suffering; all of which aid in the destined doom of the characters. Love is golden, pure. It’s the saving grace which sheds light in the darkest of nights. But in our main characters’ stories, it’s part of their downfall. In both novels, love is one of the threads that are snapped.
The tainted, incestuous love of Jocasta and Oedipus Rex helped to prove the prophecy true. It was essentially a mockery of what love is, for they believed it to be true but in the end what they really felt was the love of a mother to her son. Teiresias lays the first seed of their crime, crying to him, “I say thou livest with thy nearest kin in infamy, unwitting in thy shame. ” As the truth unfolds and the couple begins to realize the depth of their sins, the love which they once knew morphs into an ugly, distorted perversion. It resulted in Jocasta’s suicide and Oedipus’s loss of sanity.
The revolting reality that the truth posed was too much for the characters to rationalize. In the case of Hamlet, Ophelia’s rejection only added to the deep depression that already colored the Prince’s mind. Hamlet’s spurned desire caused him to alienate Ophelia, leaving him lonelier and believing that there was no one there for him. As he was contemplating suicide, he includes the “pangs of despised love” as one of the wounds that ravage his mind. Our Prince is angered by Ophelia’s rejection and unleashes his wrath on her, accusing that “God has given you one face and you make yourselves another.
You jig and amble, and you lisp, you nickname God’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance. ” His isolation and cruelty left Ophelia reeling and despairing, thus ending with the taking of her own life. Another instance of “incest” was between Claudius and Gertrude. The taboo of their relationship brought about Gertrude’s death and added to Hamlet’s reasons for avenging his father by murdering Claudius. When the cement bonds of family are crushed and ground into dirt, it could cause one to question their life, their worth. All they’ve known vanishes.
Family is the stoic rock that is supposed to support you, be there for you in times of need. As Oedipus inadvertently betrays himself and his family, he spells out the demise of his blood line and all others involved. His family becomes a perversion of what a true one should be, spawned out of betrayal and sin. His realization of his broken family snaps his sanity, crying out, “Then had I never come to shed my father’s blood nor climbed my mother’s bed; the monstrous offspring of a womb defiled, co-mate of him who gendered me, and child. Was ever man before afflicted thus, like Oedipus? because of the God’s will, he kills his own father and sleeps with his mother. He’s fulfilling the prophecy and his destiny, committing taboos that will end up ripping apart the seams of his rational mind. The betrayal of Jocasta and Laius helped the story to progress as well. If they’d never abandoned their newborn son for death, Oedipus might have avoided ignorantly sleeping with his mother and carelessly murdering his father. The cursed King also broke the trust of his people. He alone was the cause of the plague that claimed so many innocent citizens of Thebes.
Oedipus only wasted time and effort trying to search for the culprit when it was he who was the villain, accusing the innocent of treachery and pointing his finger at all the wrong places. The lover’s tryst between Ophelia and Hamlet could be categorized as betrayal as well as spurned love. Hamlet looked to the woman he loved for support in his dark time, but she refused him and sent him away at the advice of her father. He illustrates his sense of deception when he says, “Ay, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness.
This was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love you once. ” The advice Ophelia received from Polonius to stop seeing Hamlet made the Prince believe that she was just a whore, playing with his emotions. The relationship of Gertrude and Polonius also created a sense of disloyalty for Hamlet. The Queen hardly endured the mourning period of her late husband before diving into bed with King Hamlet’s murderer. Hamlet formulated a distrust for women as a result of his mother’s actions, lashing out at Ophelia exclaiming, “Get thee to a nunnery.
Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me. ” Once Hamlet learned that his mother was not only sleeping with the King’s brother, but his murderer as well, the knife of disloyalty cut even deeper. Revenge then began to taint his mind with the realization of this great betrayal. But, the driving force behind the thirst for the death of Claudius came from the broken trust between brothers. As Claudius poured the venom into King Hamlet’s ear, it sealed his own death.
In both Hamlet and Oedipus Rex, the drama revolves around a broken and disjointed family. Your relatives are those you trust, a net to catch you from any treacherous fall. Oedipus tears apart his family as he taints it with murder and incest, incurring his madness and his parent’s demise. He knows that because of his dark deeds, he has set a life for his daughters in which they’ll always be haunted by his actions. His knowledge of this sin makes him spurn himself, “Their father slew his father, sowed the seed where he himself was gendered, and begat these maidens at the source wherefrom he sprang. Jocasta and Laius also aided in the destruction of their family’s foundation when they tried to kill their own son. Oedipus narrates this when he claims, “No, let me be a dweller on the hills, on yonder mount Cithaeron, famed as mine, my tomb predestined for me by my sire and mother, while they lived, that I may die slain as they sought to slay me, when alive. ” But, destiny won out and punished them for their cruelty, for the prophecy was still fulfilled. In the case of Hamlet, Claudius takes a sledgehammer to the Royal family of Denmark when he kills his own brother.
This action was the spark which ignited the flame that would engulf the entire family. The Ghost of King Hamlet exposes the treachery of his brother, revealing “But know, thou noble youth, the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown. ” The loss of his father was the initiating action that commenced Hamlet’s depression and the discovery of Claudius’s role spurs him to consider murdering Claudius. When Hamlet finally avenges his father, he makes his uncle’s broken brotherhood known, “Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane, drink off this potion. Is thy union here?
Follow my mother. ” Another family wrecked in the play was Polonius’s family. As a conspirator to Claudius, he received his karma when Hamlet killed him. His action brought down his children as well. He convinced Ophelia to disregard Hamlet’s advances, thus incurring the Prince’s loathing for her and making her commit suicide. Claudius convinced Laertes that Hamlet was sick in the mind, dangerous, and the cause for the death of his family. The actions of the two men brought down this second family, as Polonius’s children were lured into the deceiving web of lies which they had spun.
Like the venom poured into King Hamlet’s ear, another type of poison seethed into the minds of our plays’ characters. These doomed persons both endured torturous suffering of the mind and the heart. In Oedipus Rex, Jocasta couldn’t bear the knowledge of the terrible sins she had committed. In her last despairing words, she cries “O woe is thee, poor wretch! With that last word I leave thee, henceforth silent evermore. ” Oedipus couldn’t stomach his own tainted self and whatever was left of his corrupted family.
His plea cries for blindness, to blacken all that is sinful, “Dark, dark! The horror of darkness, like a shroud, wraps me and bears me on through mist and cloud. Ah me, ah me! What spasms athwart me shoot, what pangs of agonizing memory? ” But no matter what he does, he cannot escape his sins, even as he stabs his eyes. The suffering of these characters, brought on by the knowledge of what they had committed, was the ultimate weapon which ended them. Our Prince Hamlet was inflicted with the disease of the mind, depression.
It lingered in the corners of his mind, a black cloud which fostered his dark thoughts and wishes to avenge his father and all who has wronged him. Hamlet also questions the validity of living, whether it was worth it. “To be or not to be? ” To live or not to live? He’s outlining his depression in that soliloquy, debating “whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take to arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. ” He paints the image of his tired mind set, for “who would be the whips and scorns of time? There is also poor Ophelia, who has cracked underneath her ex-love’s cruel words. “Well, God’ield you! ” She cries in her insanity, “They say the owl was a baker’s daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be. God be at your table. ” She cries her nonsensical words, demonstrating her fragile state of mind. She ultimately becomes so haunted by the stinging words of Hamlet that she cannot bear her life any longer, thus drowning herself. Both of these characters’ sufferings gave rise to their final death.
In the works of Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, the main characters all suffer a tragic end. It’s the themes that permeate the pages which causes their ultimate doom. When a chain of events are set into motion, un-foretold consequences may lurk behind. And so those consequences begin to taint the concepts that we all inherently rely on for a happy life. As human beings, we strive to attain love, to be accepted into one’s heart and to do the same. Accompanying love is the expectancy of fidelity. When Prince Hamlet witnessed the countless deceptions, he lost faith in his fellow man.
Also family, in which there are ties that are stronger than ever, is expected to remain truthful and just to their relationships but this is violated in both plays. As a result, the violation of all the expected concepts brings about the plague of despair that infects one’s mind. At the realization that life isn’t living up to what they hoped for, questions of existence arise. And so these ideals of cursed love, crumbled loyalty, a broken family and the virtue of suffering all spelled out the imminent demise of our poor characters.
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